Last night I attended a fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) of Santa Barbara. The theme was “Think Pink.” Just for the record: my favorite color was pink BEFORE FBC. I’m just sayin’…
I was asked to say a few words at the event. Even writing that makes my hands clammy. However, I was asked by my girlfriend to whom I would never, could never say “No.” So, somehow, even after I agreed, I had to get myself to “Yes!”
My idea of the ultimate discomfort and risk taking (aside from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, of course) is standing before a crowd of 300+ and talking about myself. Cue the clammy hands. I have no problem standing in front of a crowd of doctors and nurses talking about pediatric hospice. But myself? No way. Go figure.
Just as I fully researched and prepared for all of the discomfort and risk taking of this last year, prior to the event, I decided to do a little research to garner ways to ease the butterfly colony that had taken up residence in my belly. Here’s what I found (and tried to do!):
- Prepare – Supposedly nothing helps ease the fear of public speaking than knowing your material. The ability to connect with the audience comes from having the confidence that you won’t get lost during your delivery. I was so nervous that I didn’t actually know what I was going to say until about 2 hours before the event. However, I went over and over and over my script prior to delivery which did indeed help.
- Know the room – Become familiar with the place in which you will speak. Arrive early and walk around the room including the speaking area. Stand at the podium, speak into the microphone. Walk around where the audience will be seated. Walk from where you will be seated to the place where you will be speaking. I used to do this all the time before I spoke at national conferences. This helped immensely. I was unable to do this last night however because when I arrived, there was already a musician performing on said stage. GULP. This threw me off a little bit. Ok, a lot.
- Know the Audience – Some people think that it is easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of strangers. I happen to find it more difficult to speak to a group of friends. And last night, about 40% of the audience were friends which seemed to encourage some of the butterflies in my tummy to take flight.
- Relax – Tension can be eased by doing relaxation exercises. For example, while I was waiting in the cue of speakers, I sat in a chair with my back straight. I breathed in slowly, held my breath for 4 to 5 seconds, then slowly exhaled. To relax my facial muscles, I opened my mouth and eyes wide, then closed them tightly. I’m sure that my exercises were quite attractive to those around me. It helped, though!
- Visualize Yourself Speaking – Prior to speaking, I imagined myself walking confidently to the lectern as the audience applauded. I then imagined myself speaking, my voice loud, clear and assured. This helped tremendously.
- Realize People Want You To Succeed – All audiences want speakers to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They want you to succeed – not fail. In fact, one of my dearest friends said this exact thing to me prior to my wobbly-knee’d ascension onto the stage.
- Concentrate on the Message – Not the Medium – My nervous feelings really dissipated when I focused my attention away from my anxieties and concentrated on my message and the audience, not myself. “It’s not about me,” I reminded myself (over and over again).
- Turn Nervousness into Positive Energy – The same nervous energy that causes stage fright can be an asset. I did my best to harness it and transform it into vitality and enthusiasm.
Despite my preparation, before (and during the first hour of the event), I was an absolute basket case. Seriously. The poor HOTY had his hands full trying to talk me off of the ceiling (which was especially hard since we were outside!).
The Silver Lining (and real boost of confidence and calm) came when I saw my Oncologist. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time. He gave me the greatest imaginable compliment when he said, “You look as if we had never met.” Wow. Wow. Wow.
When I walked up on stage, despite my valiant efforts to utilize the helpful hints above my legs felt like Gumby. Of course it didn’t help that I was wearing my big girl tippy shoes.
Once I was on stage and had the opportunity to thank my Oncologist and share some Silver Linings I felt ok. I smiled, breathed and even laughed. All-in-all, I did okay (some said that I actually did pretty great!).
The most important thing is that it was a beautiful event that raised a lot of money for a great organization in town (Silver Lining). Below are some images from the event, designed by Merryl Brown Events. Absolutely gorgeous. And if there is anything that could take away jitters, it’s a pink dessert table!
Happiness is life served up with a scoop of acceptance, a topping of tolerance & sprinkles of hope, although chocolate sprinkles also work.